Murder on the Blackboard

A popular cozy mystery series, The Hildegarde Withers Mysteries, by Stuart Palmer, includes Murder on the Blackboard, set in New York City in the 1930s, at a time when teaching positions were often given to unmarried women because “they needed the work”, and a time when, generally speaking, teachers were much more prim and proper than today. 

The cast of characters is quite interesting, yet a bit antiquated, even for the time. The pince-nez-wearing Miss Withers has a history with the local police precinct, and has helped them solve several crimes. Some of them appreciate her assistance, and others, of course, do not. 

Some of the language is a bit archaic, but is perfect for the time in which the story is set. The prose of this book led me to feel as if I were reading the script from an old black and white movie, and considering the setting, if that was the intent of the author, he succeeded beautifully. 

The story opens as Miss Withers is keeping a young boy after school to write sentences on the blackboard as his punishment for misbehaving. She steps out of the room, and finds that a young, attractive teacher has been murdered. Unfortunately, the detective who appreciates her help the most is in the hospital. The one who fills in for him is full of himself, and listens to no one.

I loved Miss Withers, and her feisty, independent personality. She was ahead of her time in demanding to be taken seriously, and treated with respect by men in positions of authority. I especially applaud the fact that a male writer created her. I found the archaic language to be a bit cumbersome, but story itself is intriguing and entertaining.  

 

What Makes This Book Reviewer Grumpy?

  • Using the word “loaned” instead of “lent”;
  • The improper placement of the word “only” within a sentence;
  • Beginning sentences with the conjunctions “and” and “but when (most times) those sentences should have been combined with the preceding sentence.


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